Sales Director Ken Rahn on Learning and...
What does the Medallia Sales team have in common with a Navy aircraft carrier’s nuclear power plant? Ken Rahn says there are more similarities than you might think. In this...
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When I joined Medallia in January, I was excited to have found a company and team whose passions aligned so closely with mine. I genuinely believe in our product’s ability to help businesses reach their full potential, and our Sales team is likewise energized around that mission. Team members frequently tell me they’ve never sold a product with so much impact on the businesses we serve.
Aside from impact, this team also values honest assessments of the business. Now that I’m nearly six months into this job, and still have relatively fresh eyes, this seems like the right moment to share my take on Medallia’s strengths, as well as the challenges we’re tackling as we build a bigger and better business.
A Huge Opportunity
Medallia offers a product that has become essential as technology and demographic trends have made customer-centricity a boardroom priority. The Medallia Experience Cloud allows clients to ‘wire’ their enterprise to provide highly differentiated customer experiences, and to learn and innovate based on customer-driven insights. The result is happier, more loyal customers (who spend more), engaged employees, and significant financial benefits.
Something that struck me early on was how broadly Medallia capabilities are deployed by our clients. In industries like telecommunications, hospitality, and healthcare, you’ll find tens of thousands of employees accessing and acting on customer feedback via the Medallia mobile app—with a daily usage rate of 42% (higher than Twitter!)—a terrific proof point of the value front-line employees see from our platform.
The importance and visibility of Medallia initiatives also creates an exciting environment for our sales teams. The business issues that our platform addresses resonate at the highest level of corporate leadership, so it’s common for our teams to have access and exposure to the C-Suite as we make the case for investment in our platform. The relationships our sales reps build through the sales cycle are assets to them at Medallia and beyond.
An Exciting Challenge
As I was evaluating a role at Medallia, I took a critical look at the opportunities and challenges facing the organization. What excited me most was seeing such intrinsic strength in the product offering, as well as the market size and potential. I also recognized that there were challenges to address, including tough Glassdoor reviews and much higher attrition in sales than we feel is healthy. In a way, those issues also excited me. In my experience, the hardest thing for technology companies to do successfully is to build a great product that works at scale and solves important business problems in a large market. Medallia’s done that. Updating the go to market strategy and building a plan for the next phase of growth felt like hard but straightforward and rewarding work.
In order to help, I first had to understand the business’s current reality. I spent my first months at Medallia interviewing and listening to our front-line teams, and spending time in market. I wanted an unfiltered view of what was working and what wasn’t to help us decide where we should double-down and where to shift strategy. I also was curious about individual team members’ ideas, and wanted to make it clear that their perspectives are valued.
Many important questions surfaced from those conversations: How do we place people in the territories where they’ll have the most success? How do we approach packaging, pricing, and delivery to better align with the customer experience maturity of each client? How can we scale most effectively? What type of support and enablement do new reps need during their early months to ramp effectively? And how do we take a group of leaders accustomed to operating in one mode and give them a more holistic view of the business, along with new tools to support their teams?
How We’re Improving
The leadership team and I landed on a few top priorities:
To support our team’s success, we’ve delivered a set of packaged product offerings, Medallia Best Practice Packages, which allow new customers to get started easily with Medallia, and realize early wins. These packages reduce TCO and support predictable land-and-expand selling, which is especially important for new reps.
We’re using data to make more effective decisions about where to place resources, ensuring we put our people in territories where they can succeed. We’ve also rethought the core job description for the Sales Director role. We haven’t done anything magical; we just went back and looked critically at the description to realign it with what our team really needs. We want to make sure we’re finding intrinsically motivated folks who have experience selling to senior business leaders and coordinating with multiple stakeholders. Sales cycles often start before funding is in place, so successful sales people must know how to collaborate with clients and external partners to build coalitions in support of a Medallia decision.
To make sure Medallia is a place where great sales professionals want to stay and build a career, we’re also upgrading our onboarding and training programs. In August we’ll launch a new onboarding boot camp—a mix of online material, workshops, colleague mentoring, and professional coaching—that is an investment in both our team’s future and the individual futures of our new hires. We’ve identified what a new team member needs to know on their first call, what they should have learned 12 weeks in, and where we want them to be after a year. This approach gives us a clear path for onboarding and helps team members track their own development. We’re also launching the Medallia Sales Academy, which will deliver ongoing skill development to established members of the Sales organization.
A Bright Future
I’m happy to see the early returns on these investments. But I also realize that any path towards a brighter future includes a few missteps. Knowing we’ll never do everything perfectly, it’s especially important to recognize what is going well. That’s one of the reasons we put so much emphasis on celebrating wins. Whenever a member of our team reaches a key milestone, we take the time to acknowledge the hard work that helped get them there. I regularly see emails from regional directors personally thanking the broad group of Medallians involved in a deal or key client outcome (e.g. go live), with specific descriptions of each of their contributions. I believe that our culture of teamwork is a huge part of what makes this a special place to work.
As I reflect on my first six months at Medallia, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and excited for what lies ahead. It’s energizing to work with talented people who are as passionate about the team’s and company’s success as their own. They challenge me, and everyone around them, to be better tomorrow than we were today—and that’s exactly what I see happening. Day by day, our Sales team is helping solidify Medallia’s position as the leader in an important category, and moving us further down the path to building an enduring and valuable business.
I’m thrilled and humbled to be on board. If you’re interested in joining us on this incredible journey, we’d love to talk!